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The Murray Family Trek: Family adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail

 

About the Murray Family adventure

Left to right: Barry Sr., Colette, Barry Jr., and Bernadette Murray share a light moment and a snack while horse packing in the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail in 1970. (Bernice Murray)

Left to right: Barry Sr., Colette, Barry Jr., and Bernadette Murray share a light moment and a snack while horse packing in the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail in 1970. (Bernice Murray)

The following description is based on the reminiscences of Bernadette Murray-Macioce, who traveled with her family on horseback over the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada in 1969 and 1970. It offers a glimpse into how such an ambitious family adventure got started and how it was viewed by a young girl. As the trip began, the family members were:

 

Barry G. Murray Sr. — 30-year-old father

Bernice Murray — 29-year-old mother

Barry G. Murray Jr. — 12-year-old son

Bernadette Murray — 10-year-old daughter

Colette Murray — 8-year-old daughter

 

The children were home-schooled while traveling, and of course, learned a lot about nature on the trail.

 

California dreaming

The five members of the young Murray Family left their Portland home in 1963, loaded up their 1958 Morris Minor with everything they owned and headed south. Life seemed perfect as they settled in Lagunitas, California, an idyllic little town tucked away in the rolling hills of Marin County's San Geronimo Valley. The father, Barry G. Murray Sr., got work as a writer and photographer for San Francisco Magazine.

 

The National Trails System Act, among other things, created the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in 1968. (www.trails50.org)

The National Trails System Act, among other things, created the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in 1968. (www.trails50.org)

Societal woes

By 1968, the San Geronimo Valley had become a haven for Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and hippies. The war in Vietnam was raging, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and life felt grim. Drugs and violence took a more prominent role in society. At one point, Barry Sr. was called to a party to take a young woman who had overdosed to the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic—she foamed at the mouth as he drove over the Golden Gate Bridge. He arrived to find a line that wrapped around the building but got her in right away because he was one of the few people there who was not high. He left the woman there, never knowing if she survived.

 

The spark of adventure

Barry Sr. mounted his horse, Big Enough, on October 2, 1968 and rode to the Lagunitas Grocery Store to buy the San Francisco Chronicle. As he placed the newspaper on the counter and dug into his pocket for his coin, the headline jumped off the page: “President Lyndon B. Johnson Signs National Trails System Act.” There it was in black and white: with the stroke of a pen, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail officially became the nation's first cross-country long distance scenic trails. He read the article while riding his horse as he hurried home to tell the family.

 

Bernadette Murray rides her horse up the trail to the Dee Wright Observatory at McKenzie Pass in the Oregon Cascades in 1970. (Barry G. Murray)

Bernadette Murray rides her horse up the trail to the Dee Wright Observatory at McKenzie Pass in the Oregon Cascades in 1970. (Barry G. Murray)

The family prepares

The news of the national scenic trail designation struck a chord with the Murray Family. They didn't own a television so while most other families were watching the Ed Sullivan Show, the Murrays gathered at night around the fireplace and read together. A family favorite was the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books. Around the dinner table, the discussion turned to getting away, going back in time—to a place without drugs and violence. Soon that conversation became more focused on “the Pack Trip.” The family prepared meticulously while studying books about how to pack horses, make leather clothing and gear and learn countless other skills needed to safely complete the trek.

 

On the trail

Finally, in April 1969, the Murray’s set out from the Mexican border, determined to ride 2,650 miles to Canada on the newly-designated Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Up to two-thirds of the trail had not been built or was not maintained. Over 400 miles crossed private property and locked gates on private property often meant confronting angry owners with guns. Much of the trail was simply a dotted line on a map that bore little resemblance to reality. As the family traveled, they trailblazed routes and dismounted to build and mark the trail. The family left the trail for the winter and returned the next spring to complete the adventure.

 

Bernadette and Colette Murray pause at a sign marking the historic Barlow Road near Mt. Hood in the Oregon Cascades in 1970. (Barry G. Murray)

Bernadette and Colette Murray pause at a sign marking the historic Barlow Road near Mt. Hood in the Oregon Cascades in 1970. (Barry G. Murray)

Home sweet home!
After struggling through the long California trail section, Bernadette was excited to be finally be back home in Oregon. The new Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail followed the long-established Oregon Skyline Trail, and proved to be the best-maintained section of trail on the entire route. Of course, in reality, many groups built the the Pacific Crest Trail over the centuries: Native Americans, mountain men, homesteaders, fire crews—all of them were trail blazers.

 

Press coverage

On Mt. Hood, the family was met by a press conference at Timberline Lodge and rode right up the ski trail where their family had earlier skied and climbed for years. During the press conference, the U.S. Forest Service presented the family with garbage bags the agency had printed to start the Woodsy Owl “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute! Pack it Out!" campaign that, Bernadette remembers, was inspired by writing the message on the sides of the pack panniers on their horses.

 

Barry Murray Jr. moves trash from pack panniers to a trash can at a developed spot along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Oregon Cascades in 1970. The pack panniers read, "PACK IT OUT." (Barry G. Murray)

Barry Murray Jr. moves trash from pack panniers to a trash can at a developed spot along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Oregon Cascades in 1970. The pack panniers read, "PACK IT OUT." (Barry G. Murray)

Finally on October 7, 1970, after struggling through the snow in northern Washington, the family reached the Canadian border, completing their adventure and cementing their memories for a lifetime.

 

Favorite Oregon spots

As the miles flew by, every day was a visual treat of beautiful lakes, high deserts, snow capped peaks, virgin forests and gushing waterfalls. When asked to choose a favorite spot in the Oregon Cascades, Bernadette struggled and noted the "stunning vistas around every bend or just over the next mountain."

 

So, among her many favorite places, Bernadette lists: "Lake of the Woods, Mt. McLoughlin, the Pumice Desert, Crater Lake, Mt. Thielsen, Three Fingered Jack, Diamond Peak, Wikiup Plains and the spectacular snowcapped Three Sisters: Faith, Hope, and Charity. [The trail] follows the crest of the Cascades [as it] passes by Mt. Jefferson and stunning Jefferson Park, rugged Opie Dilldock Pass, McKenzie Pass and the beautiful Dee Wright Observatory, and stately Mt. Washington. It passes by majestic Mt. Hood and then makes a dramatic drop to the lowest point on the PCT before the crossing of the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks and continuing through Washington." Clearly, she saw too much beauty to narrow it down to one or two spots.

 

Learn more

For more information about the Pacific Crest Trail, contact the PCTA at www.pcta.org or attend the Annual PCT Days. Learn more at www.pctdays.com.

 

See more photos from the trek interspersed in the rest of this exhibit.

 

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